It was the type of training that you hope you never need to use.
On a cold, foggy morning outside of Kansas City, Mo., hundreds of pupil transportation officials stood transfixed by the scene in front of them: Teenagers lay unconscious or hobbled dazedly below the grisly union of a freight train and a school bus, the latter crumpled and tipped on its side.
Although the disaster scenario was a staged presentation, it was nonetheless troubling, as onlookers could easily picture their own district’s name emblazoned on the side of the fallen bus.
Emergency responders soon entered the picture, moving methodically to assess and treat the injured students. Meanwhile, Battalion Chief Joe Lay of the Independence (Mo.) Fire Department explained to the crowd the intricacies of the emergency response and what they, as school bus officials, would need to do in this type of situation.
Lenny Bernstein, president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and transportation coordinator for Haverstraw-Stony Point Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., undoubtedly spoke for the entire gathering as he said after the presentation, “I want to go back and make sure we have a good plan in place.”
Planning for and responding to emergencies was a recurring concept throughout the NAPT’s 32nd Annual Conference and Trade Show, which drew approximately 1,750 attendees and exhibitors from across the U.S., Canada and elsewhere in the world.
Are you prepared?
Mike Powers, a volunteer rescue worker and substitute school bus driver from New York, led a workshop in which he explained the transportation director’s role in a multi-casualty incident involving a school bus. Powers listed information that responding agencies — police, fire, EMS — might need from the pupil transportation operation, such as vehicle make and model, student rosters and driver abstract. Powers stressed the importance of having this information readily available and also of being familiar with the agencies.
“How many of you here know your fire chief’s first name? EMS chief? Sheriff?” Powers asked. “They should know who you are.”
In another session, Nikki Hughes, director of transportation at San Juan Unified School District in North Highlands, Calif., recounted her experience with a fatal accident a few years ago. A veteran bus driver had collided with a small car, which went under the bus, killing the car’s two occupants.
Hughes detailed her response to the accident, pointing out areas in which she should have been better prepared. For instance, she highlighted the need for an effective “accident kit” that can be picked up and taken to the scene to assist in responding. Hughes also described how her department handled the aftermath of the crash — in part by holding a mandatory grief-counseling meeting for all staff — and how she worked with the district’s public relations person to deal with the media.
The LED Initiative
One of the other key components of the event was the unveiling of a program called Leading Every Day (LED), which was designed to foster leadership among NAPT members.
The LED Initiative, created by the NAPT and well-known industry consultant Cal LeMon (president of Executive Enrichment), required participants to attend seven specific sessions on leadership and to attend roundtable and small-group discussions on a wide variety of topics, such as performance evaluation standards, mediation and conflict resolution, guidance to avoid liability and harassment in the workplace, and employee team building.
More than 50 attendees participated in the program, which didn’t end with the conference. LeMon is following up with participants by e-mailing them six “homework assignments” to help them maintain their focus on leadership.
“I have spoken by e-mail to a few of the participants, and each of them was very excited about the possibilities of the LED Initiative,” said Peter Lawrence, transportation director at Fairport (N.Y.) Central School District.
Opportunities, A to Z
But the NAPT meeting addressed far more than just emergency preparedness and leadership. Other topic areas included safety, technology, maintenance, special-needs transportation, pre-trip inspections, security, crisis response and behavior management.
Motivational training was also highlighted. Inspirational speaker Bill Butterworth emphasized the importance of balancing work and life.
“Life is a race, and you need to be able to finish the race,” Butterworth said. “Your goal is endurance, not the sprint. Imbalance is the enemy.”
Butterworth cited three potential roadblocks to a balanced work and home life — the “hazies,” losing sight of long-term goals; the “lazies,” lacking the self-discipline to bring life back into focus; and the “crazies,” allowing life to run out of control.
To overcome these roadblocks, Butterworth said people need to set clear priorities, learn the discipline of endurance and reach the finish line through pacing.
Meanwhile, LeMon provided some guidance for transportation professionals in the use of language in a session called “The Language of Leadership.”
LeMon emphasized that language really does matter. “The power of language allows you the ability to influence a person within 3 to 7 seconds,” he said. “Using the right language can make or break your day at home or at work.”
LeMon said the importance of language can be seen in the longevity of words and phrases coined by leaders such as Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. He added that tone of voice and body language are also also important in communicating effectively.
This year’s event also featured a celebration of SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s 50th anniversary. The reception, which was held before the NAPT Awards Banquet, feted the contributions to pupil transportation that the magazine has made over the past five decades.
“We’re proud to have been part of the pupil transportation industry for the past 50 years and plan to continue our involvement for at least another 50 years,” said SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo, who has been with the magazine’s parent company, Bobit Business Media, for the past 25 years.